The Shifter

by Janice Hardy


1. Why do the Baseeri occupy Geveg? What alternatives to occupation might the Baseeri have had to achieve their goals?
Consider similar real-world occupations. Under what circumstances are such occupations justified, and when are they unjust?

2. When an Elder grabs Nya, she observes, “No one moved to help. . . . I’d bet a week’s lunches that if my hair was Baseeri black, someone would have stepped forward” (p. 23). Why might Nya’s opinion be right, and why might it be wrong?

3. Why does Nya initially choose to trust Danello? If you were in her situation, would you have made the same choice? Why or why not?

4. Why does Nya find the Sanctuary and its statues to be creepy? What does she feel about the saints represented there? How do you know?

5. What are the differences between Nya’s abilities and those of other Takers? Provide a similar real- life example of people with unusual abilities. Are the unusual abilities beneficial, harmful, or both? Explain.

6. After Nya shifts pain into a fisherman, she asks herself, “Is having no choice the same as choosing?” (p. 129). What does this question mean? How might it apply to your life? How would you answer this question?

7. Why does Nya think that shifting pain is wrong? Do you agree or disagree? If you had the authority to create new rules or laws for shifting, what would they be and why?

8. Which characters in the novel, if any, do you consider to be traitors and why? What is the difference between someone doing what she or he must do to survive and being a traitor? Explain.

9. Would you describe Nya as someone who formulates plans or as someone who behaves impulsively? Drawing from your own experience, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of formulating plans. Also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of impulsive decision making.

10. Why do characters riot at the end of The Shifter? Does rioting solve their problems? Why or why not? Under what circumstances do people tend to riot?

11. What do you think might happen next in the Healing Wars series? What hopes do you have for Nya, and what worries do you have for her?


1. To Shift or Not to Shift. With your reading group, discuss the physical, psychological, and moral implications of Nya’s ability to shift pain from one person to another. Consider whether shifting should or should not be allowed in Geveg. Divide into two groups—the pros and the cons—and debate the legitimacy of shifting and the rules that should govern it.

2. Healer Manual. Review the information on Healers and healing in The Shifter, including the specifics on taking and shifting. Using the information you’ve collected, craft a comprehensive, illustrated Healer manual—the sort that Nya or Tali might long for while training to become Healers.

3. Proverbs to Live By. Nya often thinks of her grandmother’s proverbs and sayings while trying to decide the best course of action. Taking inspiration from the power of these maxims, research the meaning and origin of several proverbs that you have heard your family members say. Create a proverb blog with other members of your reading group. Each week, add an entry to the blog that includes a proverb, any notable facts or trivia about it, and your reading group’s comments on its usefulness or importance.

4. Gone Graphic. Brainstorm with your reading group various techniques for adapting prose stories into graphic novels or comics stories. Then select your favorite series of scenes from The Shifter and create a comics adaptation of those scenes. Ask other members of your reading group to graphically illustrate their own favorite scenes, making sure that everyone chooses different parts of the novel to represent. Compile your own edition of Gone Graphic: The Shifter.

5. Predicting the Future. Thinking back to your answer to discussion question 11, imagine how the next book in The Healing Wars series might begin. Write your own first chapter for book two, and when Janice Hardy’s next book is published, compare and contrast its first chapter with your version of it.


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